Iraq frees prisoners in gesture to ease Sunni protests
(Reuters) - Iraq's government has released more than 300 prisoners held under anti-terrorism laws as a goodwill gesture to try to appease Sunni Muslim demonstrators who are staging protests against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Three weeks of demonstrations, mainly in Sunni-dominated Anbar province, have evolved into a tough challenge for the Shi'ite premier, increasing worries that Iraq could slide back into the sectarian confrontation of its recent past.
Officials said a ministerial committee had freed 335 detainees whose jail terms had ended or whose cases had been dismissed for lack of evidence. Sunni leaders say security forces use terrorism laws to unfairly target their sect.
Dozens of prisoners in yellow Iraqi correctional department uniforms waited surrounded by guards as women in traditional robes and old men tried to catch a glance of detainees to see whether relatives were among those released.